Brija 2.0

I am having a low time at the moment. I know why: I’ve been relying too much on external factors for my happiness (people, money, the promise of money and success) and I have not been developing my tools of equilibrium. Namely: I have not been keeping up with my mindfulness meditation, I have not done body scans, my yoga practice has been scattered.

The silly thing is I knew that this might happen. I have spent the last 4 years living as a hermit. No job, few friends, few “prospects”. I had to learn to create my own contentment, which I did, more or less. In the past 6 months a number of things have changed and now I have a burgeoning painting career and the beginnings of a yoga teaching career. I see a lot more people, I have more responsibilities and more chances of fulfillment in my days. I saw all this happening and told myself “I have GOT to keep up the meditation, I have to have my little sanctuary in my head where I can go and keep myself on an even keel.” But I was busy, I was happy, I didn’t need it as much anymore.

I forgot.

In my head there’s a big distinction in my life: before the depression and after the depression hit. It’s like I was a different person. Before I was a person with a big sense of humour, the kind of person who could make myself laugh, I had loads of ideas, boundless curiosities and interests. But I was also a bit of a judgemental cynic, I had terrible digestive problems, I was a pessimist, I was unfit.

When the depression hit I lost my sense of humour, nothing was funny anymore. I was easy to anger and easier to upset, I felt guilty all the time, I wasn’t interested in much. I had no ideas. But I started to exercise, take an interest in what I ate and in different ways of thinking. The old me was unable to cope with what I was going through so I realised I had to find new ways of coping. I ignored my inner cynic and started doing yoga and looking into meditation. I healed.

When I realised I was healing I knew that I had this great opportunity to take the best of the before and after and create the new me. The Brija 2.0, if you will. Keeping my interests and curiosity and sense of surreal humour but dispensing with the cynical side of me and the pessimism and replacing it with open-mindedness and compassion. Using these tools of equilibrium to keep me resilient. I could be myself, but better!

Today was a low point but it did one thing: it woke me up to the realisation that my work is not done. I need to commit to this mindfulness day in and day out. The work is never done!

I must not forget again.

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Fear

I’ve had a lot of fear recently. I’m thinking of applying for a residency at a gallery (yes the one that’s caused me no end of grief lately) and it’s brought up all the old anxieties about my teeny tiny CV. I’m going to say something now that may shock you…

I have not been in any kind of employment for over 3 years.

Now after you’ve picked your jaws up off the floor I’ll explain. I had a job at a bookshop in the year after school and before university. It was pleasant enough, a bit boring and lonely. I went to university and came back depressed but still felt pressure to get a job so I got a temporary job at the same bookshop. I soon realised that this was not the right thing for me when I started daydreaming about running out and going up to the nearby hills. There I thought I’d be left alone, it’d be peaceful. I knew I was “losing it” and left the job fast. It was clear that I was not in any fit state to have any kind of job.

The years that followed have brought verrrrry gradual recovery. I still felt pressure to get a job and worry about how difficult it would be to get a job after being unemployed for so long but strangely the longer I was unemployed the less I worried about it. Everyone who knew my situation (my boyfriend, sister, parents, counsellor) agreed that not having a job and concentrating on recovery was the best thing for me.

Over this time I have thought a lot, done lots about of self-enquiry about how I want to live my life and what is the best thing for me. Money hasn’t been an issue because I live with my parents, my boyfriend has a full time job and I, crucially, don’t spend much. I still have savings from my job and every so often I get some money from selling paintings. I decided that it’s definitely the right thing for me to give making paintings for a living a go. If not now, when?

This has been the best thing for me, and if I had to live it all over again (and thank god I don’t) I would make the same decisions. But it’s so hard to go against the grain of full-time employment even when it’s unnecessary and actually detrimental to your well-being. I worry about how it looks to other people, worry about having to justify the way I live my life. Sometimes I feel worthless, like I’m not a real person because I don’t have a job.

How ridiculous. I know how boring jobs can be, how soul sucking, and how easy it is to get up and go to a building every weekday to do the perceived “right thing”. This┬áis hard. Living not the “right way” but the way that’s right for me and it takes a lot of courage to do this. I hope that some day I can look back at this point, at my self now with pride for my choices and my courage and tenacity.

This is what’s getting me through this fear. I hope to see through it to the other side.

Proving teachers wrong and laughing at yourself

I’m out of the habit of posting I admit so this seems bizarre to be sitting down here and writing this. I’m keeping going with the blog, not letting the bastards grind me down. I’m going to make it mine, what that means I have yet to work out.

Sometimes we spend so much time wrapped up in our heads that we forget to laugh, I know I do. I’ve always been an appreciator of the funny things in life but the depression makes me temporarily forget. Little by little my sense of joy in the surreal is returning, I laugh more and I find it hard to stop. I play more, I’m silly. I’m myself 7 years ago again. It turns out I didn’t ever ‘grow up’, I just got depressed! Here’s to being silly forever!

On Monday I managed to get out for a run for the first time in two weeks. It was fantastic, the sun was shining and I knew the tide would be low enough for me to run on the beach. Now my journey to the beach involves either a) running past my old high school or b) running past some nesting herring gulls who will swoop at me in my running clothes (but not in my normal clothes, why is this?) I chose the high school but it is a hard decision. I was running past when my old PE teacher walked by on her way to torture those poor kids with Monday morning athletics or rounders or some other awful activity. I don’t like this teacher because I was an ‘unfit’ for most of my school sports career- bad knees, colds, IBS, period pain, whatever I milked it because I HATED being forced to do any kind of physical activity. I’m as surprised as anyone that I spend so much time out of breath and sweaty nowadays. Anyway she saw me and the look on her face was not at all dissimilar to what a person would look like had they seen a fish sprout legs and walk out of the sea. I saw her and I laughed out loud. That felt good! She hadn’t beat the joy I find in moving my body out of me.

My running track

In the evening I went to my first yoga class in two weeks too. For some reason I was a bit late and had to rush to the toilet in my bare feet before the class started. So I come back from the toilet and join the others lying on my back. We had an unusual start to the class, with shoulderstands and lying backbends at the beginning instead of the end. Not too sure how it would work with others who had tight hamstrings/hip flexors but I was feeling loose so I settled in quickly. At one point we were doing one legged bridges. I extended my left leg to the ceiling, admiring how long it looked, how flexible my hamstrings were, how responsive my body was. I have to say that I have some pretty damn elegant feet too. Feeling content I lifted the right foot up but the right foot looked a little weird, something was on my beautiful long toes. Toilet paper. I had a bit of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my right foot and it was waving high in the air for all to see. Oh god it was a priceless moment. I allowed myself a chuckle and had a great laughing fit with my boyfriend later on. It feels good to laugh finally!

There is!

I was meditating the other day. Recently I’ve been doing a centering meditation which involves concentrating on your breathing and then asking yourself for some words of wisdom to use as a mantra. Something to heal you that comes from within. It’s been doing wonders for me, when I felt defeated I sat and got ‘keep going’, when I was feeling separate I got ‘I am a part of everything’.

There was nothing remarkable about this last meditation, I was feeling insecure and a bit of a failure (about this blog if I’m honest) and nothing much came to mind. That’s ok, I just sat there. A couple of minutes from the end (I know because I cheated and I peeked at my timer) a thought struck me, I realised I was feeling happy and it wasn’t because of meditating, it was because I’d finished my alloted ‘tasks’ for the day and I could relax. This unsettled me because it reminded me of a time when I was working in the book shop after I left school and my dad commented at the end of one workday that I was seeming happier. I told him it was only because I’d finished work for the day and to this he said “that’s enough, for most people”. This struck me as the most uniquely depressing thought, it can’t be true. Can it? Is happiness just the absense of bad things? There has to be more to it!

So I’m back on my zafu thinking about this and I realised: I’m not that confused girl being told pessimistic ‘truths’ anymore. It’s crap what my dad said, absolute crap! Life is not just a procession of meaningless, unpleasant duties and happiness is not just the relief from not having to do these meaningless, unpleasant duties for another 16 hours. Now my life is rich and I know what happiness is. I spend my days doing yoga, meditating, painting, thinking, learning, talking, listening, reading, enjoying the world around me and I know that there is more! There is!